Review: Al Capone’s Dinner & Show.

Al Capone's Dinner & Show is on U.S. 192 in Kissimmee. (Photo by R.T. Robeson.)

Al Capone’s Dinner & Show is on U.S. 192 in Kissimmee. (Photo by R.T. Robeson.)

KISSIMMEE – When Congress got around to doing away with the Prohibition movement and the ban on alcohol sales, some things went out the window along with it, including bootlegging or rum-running.
But something else became obsolete: so-called Speakeasys. Who needs a secret nightclub where you can sneak in and get served booze when you could suddenly buy it anywhere you liked?
Recreating that bygone era is the schtick behind one of Central Florida’s popular dinner theaters, Al Capone’s Dinner & Show. If most of the dinner theaters in Central Florida aim is to let folks enjoy a good performance while having a relaxing dinner right there on the premises, Capone’s is a bit different. Continue reading

News of Hostess bankruptcy puts a damper on popular local dessert.

Hostess snack cakes known as Twinkies are used at the Hamburger Mary’s restaurant in Orlando to make the popular Fried Twinkies dessert. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

ORLANDO – When the news hit John Paonessa, he instantly knew it was going to have an impact on his business, potentially depriving his customers of something that he gets request for on a daily basis.
“It’s our most popular dessert,” he said.
Paonessa is the owner of Hamburger Mary’s, the restaurant at Church Street Station at 110 W. Church St. in downtown Orlando, which in addition to hosting Bingo nights, drag shows and cabarets also features a popular item on the menu: Fried Twinkies.
Problem is, Hamburger Mary’s may soon be losing a key ingredient for making it: Twinkies themselves.
“If they’re not available, we have no choice” but to pull it off the menu, Paonessa told Freeline Media.
“Mary relives her youth with this treat,” the menu notes in describing Fried Twinkies, which are deep-fried, then served with strawberry sauce, whipped cream and powdered sugar. As Paonessa noted, Hamburger Mary’s has been serving this delectable delight for decades.
“We’ve been here almost five years, and we’ve always had it,” he said. “The (Hamburger Mary’s) company is 40 years old this year, so they’ve been doing it for even longer.”
But now the restaurant chain is up against a big hurdle: the possible demise of the Twinkie, a snack cake owned by Hostess Brands and marketed as a “Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling.” Continue reading

Review: The Olive Garden franchise.

The Olive Garden restaurants, like this one at the Fashion Square Mall in Orlando, have a familiar Italian-themed decor. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

FOUR CORNERS – If there’s one great strength that chain restaurants have, it’s familiarity.
And if there’s one great weakness that chain restaurants have, it’s familiarity.
It all depends, I suppose, on the person doing the dining.
Take, for example, Olive Garden, the chain featuring Italian-American cuisine that has plenty of restaurants available across Central Florida – appropriate, considering that the first Olive Garden was opened by General Mills on Dec. 13, 1982, in Orlando.
Now headquartered in Orange County and a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, Inc., Olive Garden operates more than 750 Italian-themed full-service restaurants in the world.
So, with growth like that, what works so well for this particular franchise? I’ve visited two of their local restaurants in recent months, the first at the Fashion Square Mall at 3675 E Colonial Drive in Orlando, and the other at Rolling Oak Commons shopping plaza on U.S. 192 in Four Corners.
In both restaurants, the ambiance is familiar: the rooms offering booths or tables for casual atmosphere dining, the “Bienvenudo” signs welcoming patrons, the baskets full of hot breadsticks, and those fine Italian wines like Porta Vita that seem so inviting. If you’ve been to an Olive Garden restaurant before and enjoyed the experience, chances are you can stop into one anywhere in this region, this state, or even the country, and find that exact same experience satisfactorily replicated. Continue reading

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